DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (September 20, 2013) - When the $60,000 XR Showdown kicked off with last month's Indianapolis Motor Speedway doubleheader, Aerostar Global/Suburban Harley-Davison's Steve Rapp demonstrated that he could seize a commanding lead in the AMA Pro Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson Series title fight even during a rare weekend in which he was unable to climb atop the podium.
However, at the New Jersey Lottery Devil's Showdown, Rapp returned to his more conventional method of controlling from the front, expanding his points lead with a flawless weekend at New Jersey Motorsports Park. As a result, the veteran ace now boasts a 22-point advantage and has placed himself in prime position to finally capture the first GEICO Motorcycle AMA Pro Road Racing crown of his decorated racing career.
While Rapp's 4-2 Indy doubleheader weekend ultimately worked in his favor in terms of the championship picture, the Californian wasn't pleased to see his four-race win streak snapped. He came out swinging at NJMP, determined to start a new streak, and proved unstoppable throughout the weekend. Rapp posted a new lap record en route to pole, ripped open a near-one-second advantage on the opening lap of the race, and proceeded to leave his would-be challengers in his wake as he powered to his fifth victory of the season. After his triumphant ride, the always steady Rapp said, "We had a good bike -- we made a few changes (in warm-up) and they were definitely an improvement over what I had been riding. We're always making the bike better and getting confident, knowing the limits of the tires and the bike. I've done well at this track in the past, so that was a confidence builder coming in here. I had a good weekend at Indy, and as the year has progressed we've gotten a little better at every race."
Rapp has eliminated all but two of his rivals from title contention heading into next week's GEICO Motorcycle AMA Pro Road Racing season finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. He needs to finish just eleventh or better to guarantee himself the '13 title.
Asked if he'll take a conservative approach to the season-ender considering his healthy advantage, Rapp said, "I don't know -- I haven't really been in this position too much. I think you just do what you've always done -- what got you here. I know some people in the past just finish where they need to finish to wrap up the championship, but at the same time, that could get you in trouble. We'll see how it goes when the weekend gets here but I think I'll just do the same thing I've always done."
Steve Rapp on the #5 Aerostar Global/Suburban H-D XR1200 leads team mate Benjamin Carlson on the #45 XR1200 during the AMA Pro Vance & Hines H-D Series final at NJMP on Sunday, September 15. Rapp took the win, his fifth of the season, and heads to the season finale at Laguna Seca on September 29 with a 22-point lead and only needing to finish in the 11th-place spot in order to clinch the championship. AMA Pro Road Racing photo by Brian J. Nelson.
The battle behind Rapp for second place in Sunday's race was considerably less predictable, as a host of proud riders swapped positions relatedly throughout the 11-lap contest.
Suburban Harley-Davidson teammate Ben Carlson got away early with title hopefuls Travis Wyman (Harv's Harley-Davidson) and Tyler O'Hara (Eco Fuel Saver/Scrubblade). Their scrap was quickly transformed into a massive pack war as they were tracked down by '12 NJMP winner Shane Narbonne (Designstar3.com/Empire Harley-Davidson), MOB Racing/Eyeball Moto's Eric Stump, Kyle Wyman Racing's Kyle Wyman, and the series' defending champ, Michael Barnes on the Spyke's Harley-Davidson XR1200. O'Hara dropped well down the order before making a lightning charge late, ultimately blasting past home track hero Stump in the final run to the flag to secure second position.
Runner-up O'Hara said, "I got a good jump but going into Turn 1 we kind of bungled it up a little bit and Steve got a good gap and put his head down and rode his own race. We were just battling the whole race (for second). I was back in fifth or sixth at one point. I picked a couple guys off in the draft here and there and also going into Turn 6 -- the lefthander. I'm looking forward to Laguna -- that's going to be my home track. I'm happy to come out of here with a podium but I really want to get a win. I've been really close the last couple of races and that's why we come out here -- to win."
Stump, who narrowly missed making the cut for the XR Showdown, proved to be a major league spoiler with his third-place ride. The New Jersey native leveraged his expansive NJMP knowledge to slide his way to a spot on the podium. Stump said, "Yeah, of course (racing at home) played a factor. I know some fast lines, I know where to grab shifts, and I know where to not rev it. Once I got it down on the Harley, come race time I just had to put my head down and not let them get away from me too bad when the tires were fresh. I just kept pluggin' away and I know the little ins and outs of the rough stuff. It definitely played in my favor."
Travis Wyman finished 0.043 seconds ahead of his brother Kyle for fourth. Wyman retains second position in the XR Showdown standings -- albeit facing very long odds heading to Monterey. Carlson finished in sixth ahead of outgoing champ Barnes. The Floridian will come up short in his bid to successfully defend his title. While still ranked fourth in the XR Showdown, he has been mathematically eliminated for this year's championship. Narbonne, who was the big winner in last season's last-lap melee, lost out this time around, dropping to eighth on the final circulation. Aerostar Global/Suburban Harley-Davison's Nicholas Hansen and Thrashed Bike Racing's David Estok rounded out the top ten while remaining XR Showdown competitors Josh Chisum (Eco Fuel Saver/Scrubblade) and Barrett Long (Longevity Racing) finished 11th and 12th, respectively.
The 2013 GEICO Motorcycle AMA Pro Road Racing season will resume in less than two weeks' time as the series travels to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. for the ninth and final round on September 27-29. For tickets and additional information, please visit http://www.mazdaraceway.com/buy-tickets.
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